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Nana’s Cane Completed

I tend not to push my grandchildren on the projects we do together,  so this cane took some time to complete.

Madeleine wanted to make a cane for her Nana. She picked the stick she wanted and chose the hardware from my Lee Valley Tool Catalog. I was slow to pick up on the fact that she didn’t want to make any changes to the cane because she liked the wood just the way it was. She’s a purist ~ let the wood speak for itself, no need for embellishment. She did, however, like the idea of putting her name on the cane.

She did some finish sanding and then asked me to write her whole name on the cane. (We use only first names online for our grandchildren, so the rest is blocked out.) When we got to the other side of the cane she wanted her nana’s name. Before I had a chance to write it, she grabbed the cane and pencil and wrote it herself. As an afterthought, she said I could fix up the letters when I woodburned them. I didn’t, of course. I’m a purist that way.

What did I learn? Children are keenly aware when an adult is controlling a project and I was probably doing this more than I intended to. In any case, the original idea was hers. She is very happy with the result and will be beaming when she presents it to her Nana.

Monalisa, in her comment, asked who was luckier, Madeleine or I. When Madeleine was four, I overheard her telling someone that her grandpa did everything she said, but then added “and I do everything Grandpa says.”

I think that sums up how lucky we both are.

Nana's cane completed (click ti enlarge)

to Val / Nana

to Val / Nana

Close up (click to enlarge)

Close up (click to enlarge)

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The Gate Looks Great

We had a rusty old chain link fence and gate between our house and the neighbor’s that was handy for keeping friend’s dogs and young children in, but did little else except define an area. Aesthetically pleasing? Hardly. Our friend Gail made a concept drawing of some gates for our backyard, and we were thrilled with it.

I helped with cutting metal, grinding and some welding. Gail did the bending, shaping, placing and more welding. Together we completed the project in about a week, working my kind of hours ( 9:00 until lunch).  Yesterday I installed the gates, using cedar posts for support.

Pathway from the street.

Pathway from the street.

Our prarie roots are showing.

Our prairie roots are showing.

Welcome to our patio and Silverspring Studio.

Welcome to our patio and Silverspring Studio.

A view from the patio.

A view from the patio.

Needless to say, the thrill we felt upon first seeing Gail’s design has been greatly superseded by the gates themselves. We think they are a stunning addition to our backyard patio.

The rhubarb leaf stepping stones worked out very well. My friend across the street (who has been losing his leaves to my projects) had a fairly large leaf, because I had left his patch alone for a while. One look told me that it was a nice leaf to make a bird bath with.

I had been watering my newly seeded lawn twice a day for a few days and every time I did this , a robin came by and hopped though the spray from my hose. Seeing that planted a seed, because I saw the need. The robin was trying to tell me something.

The procedure is quite simple.Take a piece of plywood and lay it on a level surface. Put a piece of very thin plastic ( you could use a garbage bag) over the board.  Make a mound with moist sand the shape of the leaf on the plastic sheet on the board. Place the leaf on top of this mound. It should be a nice natural fit.

Put a layer of concrete about an inch thick over the entire leaf. Place some wire or wire mesh over the concrete for added strength. Remember to pat down the concrete so you get the air bubbles out. Lift up the plastic around the edge: shape and pat the edges so that you have a relatively smooth and thick edge that will be strong enough to avoid breakage.

Bird bath materials laid out.

Bird bath materials laid out.

Beginning to make the mold.

Beginning to make the mold.

The mold is ready for the leaf. For better results put the plastic on top of the sand and then place the leaf on the mold.

The mold is ready for the leaf. For better results put the plastic on top of the sand and then place the leaf on the mold.

Leaf ready to have concrete applied.

Leaf ready to have concrete applied.

Sorry, no pictures of the cement process. I mixed two batches with different dyes. This produced the mottled appearance.

The finished bird bath installed in my garde.

The finished bird bath installed in my garden.

Within minutes of installing the bird bath, a bird was flying overhead, checking it out. You can see its reflection in the water. This project is definitely for the birds.

After completing my birdbath, I found the following article and videos  for making a rhubarb leaf bird bath in a sample issue of GardenGate magazine. The author used a latex patch concrete, while I used regular premixed concrete, which has a bigger aggregate in it.

Written instructions on  how to sand cast a bird bath.

Videos on how to sand cast a bird bath.

I helped design this brochure for Rockway Mennonite Collegiate to explain our ZEV project and help in our fund raising efforts.

The project is well on its way, and this year’s students were pleased with their progress. The September group will also be doing some fund raising in order to complete the project.

ZEV front

ZEV back

Drive train test

Before school is out for the summer, the students who were working on the S10 truck conversion finished installing the complete drive train. We hooked up the motor to a battery charger, as per test instructions that came with the motor, and ran a test with the clutch depressed. Success: the motor rotated!

Then the transmission was placed in 1st and the clutch released. There was an increased draw of electricity, but nothing turned. A quick check revealed that the parking brakes were on. When they were  released, the back wheels turned. Here is a very condensed video of the process so far:

A quote from Josh, one of the four guys working on the electric conversion, says it all:

If we grade twelves can do it, anyone can.

There’s a challenge for you!

In my teaching of technology education and industrial arts at the grade 7 and 8 level I found that kids gravitated to the scroll saw. I had a nice DeWalt scroll saw in my school shop.

At home, I have a small, inexpensive Ryobi scroll saw that I bought for my wife to use in her art studio. She has since moved on to other things and now it sits in my garage workshop. While I was looking for things to do with my grandchildren, aged 7 and 4, I thought I would bring it out and teach them how to use it.

My granddaughter took to it like fish takes to water.  She made a puzzle out of a square piece of 1/4″ plywood. When I asked her to tell me her favorite thing about the saw, she said she liked to make turns with it. She was so busy making turns that it was hard for her brother to have one.

When my grandson finally negotiated a chance at the saw, he loved it too. He kept cutting 1/4″ plywood into smaller and smaller pieces. He then used these pieces to build a bed for his sister’s doll.

I like the fact that the scroll saw is relatively safe for a child to use~with knowledgeable adult supervision. It is quiet, so it doesn’t frighten children and it has variable speeds so they can slow it right down. I impressed upon them the fact that their fingers had to be kept away from the blade, safety glasses had to be worn and that they could not turn the machine on for each other. This was a big challenge since they both wanted to help the other speed through a cut so they could have their next turn. They soon realized that the saw would be put away if they didn’t adhere to these rules.

I was amazed to see my granddaughter figure out that an extra piece of wood could be used as a push stick if the piece she was cutting was too small and her fingers were getting too close to the blade. She is a natural. You can see the determination on her face.

Sebastian turns on the scroll saw.

Sebastian turns on the scroll saw.

Sebastian has lots of determination.

Sebastian has lots of determination.

Madeleine loves they way she "can make turns in her cuts".

Madeleine loves they way she "can make turns in her cuts."

Madeleine definately takes over while the ever (almost) patient little brother waits his turn.

Madeleine definitely takes over while the ever (almost) patient little brother waits his turn.

The projects were taken home and gifted to others before I thought of taking a picture of them. Fortunately, there is always next time.

Well I miss a day on the S10 conversion and all the fun happens. They were supposed to do body work. Well, only one person can weld and so the others connected the motor to the transmission. The tape is there to keep things from falling into the motor and the transmission. With so many other students using the shop, one can’t be too careful. Actually I would advise this for anyone. Hopefully we can get far enough with the body work next week that we can drop the motor into the truck. We are all pumped.

Motor attached to transmission

Motor attached to transmission